San Sebastian

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August 14th 2017
Published: August 16th 2017
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From Nice to San Sebastian, Bex and I were on the 'ole Flix Bus for 6 hours. We arrived at about 10.10pm. Google maps informed us we were but a mere 12 minutes walk from our hostel we were staying at. In good spirits and feeling excited about being in the heart of San Sebastian at night and seeing it all lit up, we started walking towards our accommodation. We should have known things would of course not be so simple. The warning bell started ringing when we walked down the final street towards our hostel. Drunk people were everywhere. It was a difficult road to navigate, made even more difficult when Google informed us that we had arrived, and we were unable to see anything remotely resembling a helpful sign. There were no indications that we were even at a hostel. After wandering aimlessly in the general vicinity while playing "dodge the drunk people", Bex decided to ring the woman in charge of the hostel. One would hope after a lengthy train ride and arriving in an unfamiliar new city that one would encounter a kindly and sympathetic ear willing to whisk us up to our room instantly. Alas, it wasn't to be. Bex looking slightly frazzled after the phone call and informed me that the woman didn't speak a word of English, buzzed us in to climb a fair few flights of steps. Eventually, upon reaching the landing where the "reception" should be, fireworks erupted from a Spanish lady. I loathe to call her a lady, as her mannerisms and demeanour conveyed anything but. Despite Bex repeatedly showing the woman her booking conformation, the woman felt the need to abuse us loudly and with repeated shooing motions shouting "no booking, no booking", contrary to physical evidence. Eventually, the woman left us there confused and came back with two hostel guests to attempt to communicate. After some toil and trouble, the woman " allowed us " to stay the night. Just as well, as according to all accommodation in San Seb was booked up, leaving only two places remaining, with a somewhat high price tag of 400 euro. Needless to say, we'd have been screwed if the woman sent us packing. I suspect she lacked the requisite skills to manage online bookings, and indeed, hostel etiquette as she constantly came into our room without knocking. After that unsavoury ten minutes, an actual fireworks display started, much to our surprise. As it turned out, it was Grand Week in Spain where fiestas, bull fighting and festivals ran all week long. The fireworks display was the best I'd ever seen, and just as I thought the display couldn't get any better, it kept outshining itself, quite literally. The display culminated in a crescendo of noise and neon which seemed to almost burst the sky. It was astounding. Afterwards, Bex and I got chatting to two of the girls in our dorm, two lovely and amusing Polish girls. They had just been learning about the scathing nature of the Spanish sun and its effect on their porcelain skin, they were suffering just a bit. They also enlightened us to the fact that the woman in charge of the hostel had overbooked the room we'd been staying in and had asked the two friends to share a single bed. Luckily they were so lovely and obliging and had agreed. Turns out, no one from our room came back from partying that night anyway, so the poor girl's needlessly got stuck in the one bed. The next day, Bex and I basically shot out the door and set about exploring San Seb in a day. It was actually quite achievable. First up, we saw a pretty gothic cathedral nearby then shot up one of the hills at one end of the beach to see the castle fortifications and panoramic views. As we walked around the city between 7am and 8am, it was looking a bit worse for the wear. Alcohol sodden streets and litter filled the streets. Street cleaners were hurriedly cleaning the main walkways and streets before the rest of Spain could wake up from their collective hangovers and see the mess they'd left. They clearly know how to party. There were lots of young people still drunk and wandering the streets. Some yelled a few things at us as we walked by. Luckily our Spanish is crap, and we remained blissfully unaware of what they were saying (or slurring) and kept walking. After conquering one hill and descending again, we saw that the streets had started looking respectable once again, and the festivities had started resumed. A marching band could be heard along the waterfront and people were emerging from their hidey holes. We walked to the other end of the beach to walk up the other hill. Sadly, there was only a funicular to get up the hill, otherwise an entry fee to walk up the hill. Traditionally, Bex and I opted to walk up hills for exercise and to save money, we decided to keep that tradition going. We instead wandered back to the city and saw some more historic buildings. We decided then to spend the remaining few hours on the beach. The beach was absolutely packed with people. It looked every bit the summer tourist spot. There was even white sand! A preconception I had before travelling was that there would be white sand at every beach in Europe. How wrong I was; most beaches consisted of pebbles and rocks. No wonder lounger chair facilities are amassing fortunes. Nonetheless, San Seb very postcard worthy. There were colourful and old fashioned buildings lining the hillsides. A nice introduction to sunny Spain. We left San Sebastian feeling very chilled out and ready for Portugal and its bustling capital, Lisbon.

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